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Lifewire / Scott Gercken
Included software doesn’t work on MacOS
Feels a little flimsy
The light, slim Pioneer BDR-XD05B Blu-ray Burner performs well and is easily portable, but a flimsy feel and smudgy design hold it back.
Rewritable storage has come a long way since the first CD-R drives came out years ago, and a crop of small, portable Blu-ray drives, like the Pioneer BDR-XD05B Blu-ray Burner, are making it easier to burn Blu-rays on the go. A small Blu-ray drive should be both light and portable as well as sturdy enough to take the kind of jostling you’d expect lugging it around. We tested the Pioneer BDR-XD05B to see whether this Blu-ray burner can deliver performance and portability at the right price.
Check out our buyers guide for more information on what you should look for in an optical drive.
The Pioneer BDR-XD05B Blu-ray Burner is a sleek, small black drive. It’s a tiny 5.12” square by .5” tall with a black cover and a metal bottom. The clamshell case opens to 65 degrees, so it’s easy to slide a disc onto the spindle. The button to open the clamshell is on the front left of the drive, and there’s a blue LED indicator that lights up when the drive is plugged into a power source. The drive comes with an unusually shaped USB cord, with a male micro-B USB 3.0 on one side and two USB A male ends on the other. One is designed to power the drive and one is for data transfer. The back of the drive has both a micro-B USB 3.0 port and a DC power port as a second option for powering it. The Pioneer BDR-XD05B Blu-ray Burner’s look is minimalist, black with just a small gray Blu-ray logo on the top.
The drive also feels a little flimsy. The clamshell case feels loose, and other parts seem unstable.
The USB cord is a problem. It goes from a USB 3.0 Micro-B to a double USB A connector. The dual connector is supposed to provide extra power for the Blu-ray drive, but the problem is that the cord for the second USB A connector is only long enough if your USB ports are right next to each other. If those ports are on opposite sides of a keyboard, like on our Mac, you can’t use both USB connectors. The drive also feels a little flimsy. The clamshell feels loose, other parts seem unstable, and it’s light enough to be easily knocked onto the floor. Luckily, rubbery feet on the underside generally keep it from sliding around too much. The size and weight (only 8.1 oz) make it easy to take on the go.
One of the benefits of a typical clamshell, top-loading drive is that there’s a physical button to press that opens the drive, a simple mechanism that will pop the top even when it’s unplugged. That feature alone might make the wobbly top worth it, but it doesn’t work that way on this drive—the top won’t open unless you plug the drive into a computer.
The setup process for the Pioneer BDR-XD05B is both really easy and frustrating. The easy part is that we only needed to plug the USB cord into the right slots to get it running on the Macbook we used to test it. The frustrating part is that the included software only works on Windows computers. A major producer like Pioneer only including PC software is very frustrating.
When we tried to install the software on a PC, it didn’t get any better. We put the installation CD into the Pioneer BDR-XD05B, and started up the install wizard. The installer kept generating new instances of the installation program. At one point there were six icons on the bottom of the screen for the installer. Several times, we saw a dialog box with an alert that read something like “(Program X) is already installed. Do you want to uninstall and reinstall it?” Another time, we saw an alert that read “Another installation has already begun. Finish that installation before starting another.”
After 25 minutes of installation, there was a dialog indicating installation was complete. Yet, there were still two instances of the installer program running, and each showed an alert that said it was installing one program or another without any indication of progress.
We did two tests to see check the burner’s performance. First, we ripped a 37GB Blu-ray copy of Die Hard to check the burner’s read speed for a commercial Blu-ray. Using the program MakeMKV, it took 70 minutes to make a copy.
Second, we made a backup copy of a 13.32 GB photos library using the MacOS native Blu-ray burning feature. It took 39 minutes to write the file onto a single-layer BD-R. There are a lot of Blu-ray burners that can both read and write much faster than this, but the Pioneer BDR-XD05B combines low cost with portability to make up for it.
Noise was never a problem with this drive. Auto Quiet mode adjusts media discs to a slower speed so it’s quieter, and with both data and movie discs we didn’t notice any noise loud enough to be a bother.
We tested watching Blu-rays on the Pioneer BDR-XD05B on a Macbook Pro(it’s not designed to work with a TV). The image quality was ok, but it wasn’t close to what you’d get on a HD TV with a dedicated Blu-ray player.
We also connected the computer to an HD TV through the HDMI drive and didn’t get the 1080p we expected. Instead, the resolution was stuck at 726p and the image quality was terrible, worse than a DVD. The Blu-ray image was extremely noisy and filled with huge pixels. If you want to watch movies, don’t use this drive, except maybe to make yourself more appreciative of your Blu-ray player.
We think that the best reason to watch a Blu-ray isn’t the sharp HD image but the depth of sound this format can produce. But you don’t get any of that when you watch a Blu-ray using the Pioneer BDR-XD05B, because you have to watch it on a computer with computer speakers. It didn’t get any better when we connected the computer to the TV via HDMI—the sound remained flat and muddy.
Like we wrote above, the included software was a mess to install, with windows popping up all over the place. The included software is called “CyberLink Media Suite 10.” It includes PowerDVD 14, Power2Go 8, and PowerDirector 14 LE. PowerDVD 14 is an app for playing Blu-rays and DVD’s on your optical drive. Power2Go 8 is a burning tool, and it has some system recovery tools, too. Powerdirector 14 LE is a movie editing app. All-in-all, this is a pretty useful, basic suite of software without anything that especially stands out. It gets the job done, and that’s what matters.
With an MSRP of $100, the Pioneer BDR-XD05B is one of the least expensive Blu-ray burners on the market. You get what you pay for, though—that low price comes with slower read/write speeds and a flimsy design. Still, if you’re looking for a budget Blu-ray burner, this is a good one. If you’re a heavy user, look for something faster.
With an MSRP of $100, The Pioneer BDR-XD05B is one of the least expensive Blu-ray burners on the market.
MthsTec Slim External Blu-ray Drive: Looks great at about the same price as the Pioneer BDR-XD05B, $119 MSRP, but there’s no website and no good information from the brand. It makes us wonder about customer service and quality. Try as we might, we couldn’t find any documentation about Blu-ray burning capabilities.
The drive itself looks very nice, and the ridges and subtle blue lights are a nice touch. Just like the Pioneer BDR-XD05B, the USB cord doesn’t give enough length for the second USB A connector to reach second USB port if it’s not right next to the first. With a higher price and sketchy documentation, this drive isn’t worth the risk.
LG - BP50NB40 Blu Ray Burner: The LG BP50NB40 Blu Ray Burner looks and acts just like the Pioneer BDR-XD05B. The design is extremely similar, except this drive uses a tray loader rather than a top-down clamshell. It has just about the same reading and writing speeds, and it costs about the same, $96 MSRP. One big difference is that the LG model only supports USB 2.0, which means much slower data transfer speeds. Otherwise, this device seems like it’s approximately the same across the board.
Pioneer BDR-XS06: The Pioneer BDR-XZ06 is another low-cost, easily portable Blu-ray drive. This one comes in silver and is slot loading. Even though it costs a little more than the BDR-XD05B, the slot-loading mechanism makes it feel more solid, because of the way the clamshell case moves around on the BDR-XD05B. Bonus: this one comes with software that works on a Mac.
An inexpensive option.
On one hand, the Pioneer BDR-XD05B is a light, portable Blu-ray burner with decent performance at a low cost. On the other hand, it also feels flimsy and has a smudge-magnet finish. It’s a solid performer in its price range, but there are other portable Blu-ray burners without these faults (albeit generally for more cash).